The best way to absorb the splendors and scale of Bagan is to see it all spread out beneath you. The easiest way to do this is to climb one of the taller Temples where you get a 360 – degree view of the plain and can see all four thousand of the stuppas and temples radiating out for miles.
The plain is full of trees and shrubs with the red brick stuppas and temples rising up out of the vegetation. There are groups of smaller ones clustered together, while the larger ones tend to stand on their own.
It is a fantastic sight and one that the Government feels you should pay for. Many of the taller temples used to have staircases leading to the top where you could enjoy the view. In 2005 the Generals closed the staircases in eleven different buildings that the tourists used to climb, and built a watchtower that they now charge $10 for you to use. The watchtower is a truly ugly building designed with no thought of blending into the surroundings. It was built despite the United Nations asking the Generals on three different occasions not to build it. However, the tour guides are so furious with the Generals that they refuse to take tourists to it. Instead, they have scoured the thousands of temples and stuppas for other vantage points, and have found several. It is to one of these that we are taken to watch the sunset and see the fantastic views.
The Generals also built an Archaeological Museum in the middle of the plain, which is another ugly building. They filled it with treasures from the temples and Stuppas and charge the public $5 to enter. Again the guide refuse to take us there, instead taking us to the many temples that still have treasures inside, so that we can view them in situ and without paying the Government anything.